Saying ‘Amen’ After Prayers in Worship

“After this manner therefore pray ye:… And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”

Matt 6:9,13

“Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?”

1 Cor. 14:16

“And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen,Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”

Neh. 8:6

 

 

Order of Contents

Introduction
The Meaning of ‘Amen’

The Westminster Standards
Articles
Order of Quotes
Quotes  (15)

 

 

Introduction

Do you say ‘Amen’ at the end of public prayers?  ‘Amen’ means ‘let it be’, or ‘so be it’, and expresses our consent to the prayer (1 Cor. 14:16), that we own it as ours (Deut. 27:26), it being a confession of Christ before men that are witnesses to our accountable act (Matt 10:32-33; Rom. 10:9-10), it shows our unity with the people of God (Neh. 8:6), and wish that it be fulfilled (Phil. 4:23).  Verbally saying ‘Amen’ to public prayers is something that was the regular practice of God’s people throughout the Bible, both in the Old Testament and New Testament.  If we are to worship God according to his will as laid down to us in scripture, then we should too.

While God accepts sincerity and inaudible prayers of the heart (1 Sam. 1:12-17), and looks over a multitude of imperfections in love (1 Pet. 4:8), his full blessing cannot be expected if we do not pray in the way that He directs us (Matt 6:9,13), which, almost universally throughout the Bible, unbeknownst to many, is audibly (Dan. 6:10-14, etc), we praying with the body as well as the mind, being a whole person.  Not saying ‘Amen’ to a prayer is the equivalent of not praying (1 Cor. 14:16), which, though being done by most is usually unintentional, will become necessary to do if one does not agree with a public prayer that is not truthful, reverent, God glorifying, or Christian, in order to express our disavowal of what was prayed.  

‘Amen’ should be spoken in unison by the whole congregation, men, women and children, as it is an individual act of understanding and confession relevant to all hearers (1 Cor. 14:16), was done indiscriminately by the whole congregation (Deut. 27:26; Neh. 8:6; etc.), is often connected with singing which also is done by elders, men, women and children (1 Chron. 16:7,8,36; Ps. 72:19; Ps. 106:48), and is not an act of ruling, governing or teaching.  We should also take to heart that every vain word will be judged (Matt 12:36), including lackluster, formal and unbelieving Amen’s.  We ought to say ‘Amen’ in way that reflects our earnest, dependent, wish that God really and truly will fulfill our request: vigorously with conviction and faith (Neh. 5:13; 8:6). 

It should also be noted that Amen’s are not appropriate to be said randomly throughout the service (as some people do during the preaching), such not being warranted by scripture, it being an individual act during corporate worship of the one body of Christ and therefore contrary to the nature of corporate worship, and as it is not decent or done in good order (1 Cor. 14:40).  Yet, saying Amen is warranted and good to be expressed after singing praises (1 Cor. 14:15-161 Chron. 16:7,8,36; Rev. 5:12-14; 19:1-4, the Greek word translated ‘saying’ in Revelation is the same as ‘singing’) as many of the psalms are prayers themselves, and most psalms are of the nature of petitions, wishes, requests, and praises, which Amen is naturally suited to confirm.  Thus we often sing Amen at the end of many of the psalms themselves (Ps. 41:13; 72:19; 89:52; 106:48).  

To further search the scriptures (Matt 5:39) and look into how the scriptures use the word ‘Amen’ for yourself, see all the places in the Bible that use the English word ‘Amen’, though do note that sometimes ‘Amen’ in the original languages is sometimes translated by other words into English.

The clarity of this practice in Scripture being perspicuous, it is no wonder that the historian of Church worship, William Maxwell, said that “The people’s ‘Amen’ was retained by all the Churches of the Reformation.” (Outline of Christian Worship, 1936, p. 181)

It is our great glory and privilege as reconciled, justified, and adopted creatures at the throne of grace to tell God, ‘So be it,’ as it is the means which He has given us to receive all the blessings that He offers to us in Jesus Christ, whose name is Amen (Rev. 3:14), “for all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen.” (2 Cor. 1:20).

 

 

The Meaning of ‘Amen’

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, ed. M’Clintock and Strong (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House,1895, reprinted 1969), vol. 1, p. 194

Amen

(I.)  This [Hebrew] word is strictly an adjective, signifying ‘firm,’ and, metaphorically, ‘faithful.’  Thus, in Rev. 3:14, our Lord is called ‘the amen, the faithful and true witness.’  In Isa. 65:16, the Hebrew has ‘the God of amen,’ which our [English] version renders ‘the God of truth,’ i.e. of ‘fidelity’.  In its adverbial sense amen means ‘certainly,’ ‘truly,’ ‘surely.’  It is used in the beginning of a sentence by way of emphasis—rarely in the Old Testament (Jer. 28:6), but often by our Savior in the New, where it is commonly translated ‘verily.’  In John’s Gospel alone it is often used by him in this way double, i.e. ‘verily, verily.’  In the end of a sentence it often occurs singly or repeated, especially at the end of hymns or prayers, as ‘amen and amen’ (Ps. 41:14; 72:19; 89:53).  The proper signification of it in this position is to confirm the words which have preceded, and invoke the fulfillment of them: ‘so be it,’ fiat, Septuagint: genoito.  Hence in oaths, after the priest has repeated the words of the covenant or imprecation, all those who pronounce the amen bind themselves by the oath (Num. 5:22; Deut. 27:15,17; Neh. 5:13; 8:6; 1 Chron. 16:36; compare Ps. 106:48).

 

 

 

The Westminster Standards

The Shorter Catechism #107 

What doth the conclusion of the Lord’s prayer teach us?

The conclusion of the Lord’s prayer (which is, For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever, Amen) teacheth us to take our encouragement in prayer from God only, and in our prayers to praise Him, ascribing kingdom, power, and glory to Him.  And, in testimony of our desire, and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen

¹ 1 Cor. 14:16; Rev. 22:20,21

 

 

Larger Catechism #196

What doth the conclusion of the Lord’s prayer teach us?

The conclusion of the Lord’s prayer, (which is, ‘For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.’) teacheth us to enforce our petitions with arguments, which are to be taken, not from any worthiness in ourselves, or in any other creature, but from God; and with our prayers to join praises, ascribing to God alone eternal sovereignty, omnipotency, and glorious excellency; in regard whereof, as He is able and willing to help us, so we by faith are emboldened to plead with him that He would, and quietly to rely upon Him, that He will fulfill our requests.  And, to testify this our desire and assurance, we say, ‘Amen.’¹

¹ 1 Cor. 14:16; Rev. 22:20,21

 

 

 

Articles  (in chronological order)

Woodcock, Thomas – Whether it be Expedient, and How the Congregation May say “Amen” in Public Worship, Puritan Sermons (1659-1689), Vol. 4, Sermon 31, p. 155

Booth, Abraham – ‘The Amen to Social Prayer Illustrated and Improved’ 1800, 56 pages

Fuller, Andrew – ‘Mr. Booth’s Sermon,—“The Amen of Social Prayer”’, 1841, 4 paragraphs, this is Fuller’s review of Abraham Booth’s sermon on the topic, from his Reviews, in Works, pp. 966-7

Anderson, R. Dean – Use of the Word ‘Amen’, 1998, 13 paragraphs, extracted from Ordained Servant, vol. 7, no. 4 (Oct. 1998), pp. 81-84.  Ordained Servant is the magazine of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

 

 

 

Order of Quotes  (15)

On Justin Martyr †165 and Jerome  †420
Augustine †430 and Jerome  †420
The Clementine Liturgy  380
The Reformation at Stasbourg, Germany with Bucer  †1551
The Large Emden Catechism  1551
The Scottish Reformation  1560+
John Calvin  †1564
Thomas Cartwright  †1603
The English Puritans
William Gouge  1641
Samuel Rutherford  1644
The Savoy Conference  1661
Thomas Manton  1620-1677
The Baptist Catechism  1693
Thomas Boston  1676-1732
Michael Schneider III 1992

 

 

 

On Justin Martyr 100-165  and Jerome  347-420

Thomas Ridgley, Commentary on the Larger Catechism, vol. 2, ‘The Conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer’, reprinted 1993 by Still Waters Revival, pp. 665-6

Some have thought it expedient in social prayer, that the whole assembly, together with him who leads the devotions, should say ‘Amen,’ with a loud voice, and thereby signify their consent to the prayer, and their concern in its petitions.  This appears to have been the practice of the church in the early ages.  Justin Martyr observes that the practice was followed in his time (Vid. Justin Martyr, Apol. ii. pro Christ).  He intimates that, when public prayer and giving of thanks was ended, the whole congregation testified their approbation by saying, ‘Amen.’); and it was afterwards observed in Jerome’s time, who compares the sound which the assembly made with  their united voices to that of thunder (Vid. Hieron. in lib. ii. Comment. ad Galat. in Proem. Ad similitudinem caelestis tonitrus reboat, [scil. Ecclesia] Amen.). 

 

 

Augustine †430 and Jerome  †420

Alexander Whyte, An Exposition on the Shorter Catechism, reprinted Christian Focus Publications, 2004, p. 282

Augustine says that when this word [‘Amen’] is found on the lips of the faithful, it is the seal and consent to all that has been spoken.  And Jerome says, ‘It is the seal of our consent.’

 

 

The Clementine Liturgy  380

William Maxwell, An Outline of Christian Worship (Oxford University Press, 1936), pp. 31-32

Liturgical Forms in the East

The so-called Clementine Liturgy, contained in Book VIII of the ‘Apostolic Constitutions’, c. A.D. 380

And now the bishop goes on to the Great Intercession, joining it to the Eucharistic prayer as a natural sequence:

‘We pray thee, O Lord, for Thy holy Church spread from one end of the world to the other,…  For unto Thee is due all glory, worship, and thanksgiving, honor, and adoration, to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, both now and ever unto all perpetual and endless ages of ages.’

The people say Amen; and in the common usage the Lord’s Prayer may have followed.  The bishop then salutes the people, and they reply; after which the deacon leads them in a brief litany, the bishop concluding with a brief prayer, the people saying Amen.

 

 

 

The Reformation at Strasbourg, Germany led by Martin Bucer  1491-1551

William Maxwell, An Outline of Christian Worship (Oxford University Press, 1936), pp. 98-99

The German Rites of Strasbourg

Further changes in the services took place during the succeeding year as Bucer’s influence became paramount…

Most of the versicles [read Bible verses] and responses disappeared, and the [public] worship lost its antiphonal character.  The proses [prose liturgical readings] also were gradually replaced by psalms and hymns in meter;.. [they] abolished all responses save the Amens…

 

 

The Large Emden Catechism  1551

Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, vol. 1, ed. James Dennison, Jr., (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008), p. 634

Q. 214. What does the designation, ‘Amen,’ signify? (1 Cor. 14)

R. This: ‘O Heavenly Father! We pray that whatever we have asked may be, and since thou hast promised to grant all things to us, who implore thee with genuine faith in the name of thy Son, we believe that it will surely be done by thee. And since, because of human vanity, our faith is not efficacious for this, strengthen it and impart thy Holy Spirit to us, that this prayer, ‘Our Father.’ May be offered to thee in faith, and that we might end all our prayers with ‘Amen.’’ (Jn. 15; Lk. 17)

 

 

The Scottish Reformation  1560 and following

William Maxwell, A History of Worship in the Church of Scotland (Oxford University Press, 1955), pp. 54-6

The service-book adopted at the Reformation [in Scotland, 1560] and so long used in Scotland…

All responses [by the congregation in public worship] were deleted from the services, except ‘Amens’ which were specifically enjoined in 1 Corinthians 14:16, and occurred in the Lord’s Prayer and in the worship described in the book of Revelation.  All other responses were much disliked by the stricter Reformers.  

 

 

John Calvin  †1564

As quoted in Alexander Whyte, An Exposition on the Shorter Catechism, reprinted Christian Focus Publications, 2004, p. 282

Faith has its silence to lend an ear to the word of God.  It has afterwards its turn to speak and answer Amen, according to that passage, Hosea 2:23.

 

 

Thomas Cartwright  1534-1603

The Reply to the Answer of the Admonition, Chap. 2, 21st Division, Sec. 2, p. 109.  HT: Andrew Myers

For God has ordained the minister to this end, that, as in public meetings he only is the mouth of the Lord from Him to the people, even so he ought to be the only mouth of the people from them unto the Lord, and that all the people should attend to that which is said by the minister, and in the end both declare their consent to that which is said, and their hope that it should so be and come to pass which is prayed, by the word “Amen;” as St. Paul declares in the epistle to the Corinthians, and Justin Martyr shows to have been the custom of the churches in his time.

 

 

The English Puritans

Horton Davies, The Worship of the English Puritans, p. 68.  HT: Andrew Myers

Moreover, the [other verbal] responses of the people [during worship] were stigmatized as ‘vain repetitions’ because of their reduplications. The Puritans frequently cited 1 Cor. 14:16 as a proof that only one person should speak at once, which appeared to them to veto congregational responses, with the single exception of the word Amen.

 

 

William Gouge  1575-1653

William Gouge on Saying ‘Amen’

 

 

Samuel Rutherford

Rutherford on Saying ‘Amen’, No Reason for Separation 

 

 

The Savoy Conference  1661

Cardwell, History of Conferences, pp. 262 sqq., as quoted in William Maxwell, A History of Worship in the Church of Scotland (Oxford University Press, 1955), p. 56

That the repetitions and responsals of the clerk and people, and the alternate reading of the psalms and hymns, which caused a confused murmur in the congregation, may be omitted: the minister being appointed for the people in all public services appertaining unto God… and the people’s part in public prayers to be only with silence and reverence to attend thereunto, and to declare their consent at the close, by saying Amen.

 

 

Thomas Manton  1620-1677

A Practical Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, ‘For ever. Amen.’, in his Works, vol. 1, pp. 253-4

All this is sealed up to us in the last word, Amen; which may signify, either so be it, so let it be, or so is shall be.

The word Amen sometimes is taken nominally: Rev. 3:14, ‘Thus saith the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the beginning of the creation of God.’  Sometimes it is taken adverbially, and so it signifies verily, and truly; and so either it may express a great asseveration, or an affectionate desire.  Sometimes it expresses a great and vehement asseveration: John 6:47, ‘Amen, amen, verily, verily, I say unto you.’  In other places it is put for an affectionate desire: Jer. 28:6.  When the false prophets prophesied peace, and Jeremiah pronounced war, ‘Amen! the Lord do so; the Lord perform thy words which thou hast prophesied.’  Amen, it is not an asseveration, as confirming the truth of their prophecy, but expressing his own hearty wish and desire, if God saw it good. 

Two things are required in prayer—a fervent desire and faith.  A fervent desire; therefore it is said, James 5:16, ‘The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.’  And then faith: James 1:6, ‘But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.’  What is that faith required in prayer?  A persuasion that those things we ask regularly according to God’s will, that God will grant them for Christ’s sake.  Now both these [things, fervent desire and faith,] Amen signifies: our hearty desire that it may be so; and our faith, that is, our acquiescency in the mercy and power and wisdom of God concerning the event.

Christ would have us bind up this prayer, and conclude it thus: Amen, so let it be, so it shall be.  Observe hence,

That it is good to conclude holy exercises with some vigor and warmth.

Natural motion is swifter in the end and close: so should our spiritual affections, as we draw to a conclusion, put forth the efficacy of faith and holy desires, and recollect, as it were, all the foregoing affections; that we may go out of the presence of God with a sweet savor and relish, and a renewed confidence in his mercy and power.

Again, this Amen relates to all the foregoing petitions, not to one only.  Many, when they hear, ‘Lord, give us this day our daily bread,’ will say, ‘Amen;’ but when they come to the petition, ‘Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven,’ they are cold there, and have not hearty desires and earnest affections.  Many beg pardon of sin; but to be kept from evil, to bridle and restrain their souls from sin, they do not say amen to that.  Many would have defense, maintenance, and victory over their enemies; but not with respect to God’s glory.  They forget that petition, ‘Hallowed by thy name;’ but this should be subordinated to his glory.  Nay, we must say Amen to all the clauses of this prayer.  Many say, ‘Lord forgive us our debts,’ but do not like that, ‘as we forgive our debtors:’ they are loth to forgive their enemies, but carry a rancorous mind to them which have done them wrong.  But now we must say Amen to all that is specified in this prayer.  Then,

Mark this Amen, it is put in the close of the doxology.  Observe, hence,

There must be a hearty Amen to our praises as well as our prayers, that we may show zeal for God’s glory, as well as affection to our profit.

Your Allelujahs should sound as loud as your supplications; and not only say Amen when you come with prayers and requests, things you stand in need of, but Amen when you are praising of God.

 

 

The Baptist Catechism  1693

Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, vol. 4, ed. James Dennison, Jr., (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008), p. 589

Q. 114. What does the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer teach us?

A. The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, which is, ‘for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, Amen’ (Matt 6:13), teaches us… in testimony of our desire and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen (1 Cor. 14:16; Rev. 22:20-21).

 

 

Thomas Boston  1676-1732

An Illustration of the Doctrines of the Christian Religion, ‘The Conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer’, in his Works, vol. 2, pp. 642-3

III.  Let us consider the concluding word, Amen.  It imports two things. 

(1.)  Our desire to be heard, q.d. so be it, Rev. 22:20.  ‘Amen.  Even so come, Lord Jesus.’  And the believer uses this word properly as a testimony of his desire, when by faith he is enabled and emboldened to plead with God, that He would fulfill his requests, 2 Chron. 20:6,11. 

(2.)  Our Confidence and assurance that we shall be heard; q.d. so certainly it shall be, Rev. 1:7. ‘Even so Amen.’  And the sincere Christian uses the word with great propriety in the conclusion of his prayers, in testimony of his assurance to be heard, when he is by faith emboldened quietly to rest upon the Lord, that He will fulfill the desires of his heart, 2 Chron. 14:11.

I conclude all with a very few inferences.

4.  Lastly, Use not Amen superficially at the end of your prayers, but with earnestness and faith. As for those who think it superstition to say Amen, they are ignorant of the word of God; and I would recommend to them to consult their Bible and Catechism, in order to cure them of that senseless conceit.

 

 

 

Michael Schneider III  1992

Chapter 13, ‘Prayer Regulated by God’s Word’ in Worship in the Presence of God, ed. David Lachman and Frank Smith, Greenville Seminary Press, 1992, p. 240-1

VI.  Participation in Prayer

How is the congregation to pray together in public worship?…

The congregation prays by ‘one mouth speaking for all,’ by an elder leading the people to the throne of grace…

What should the worshipper do while the solitary voice is praying aloud?  He may allow his mind to pray the same thing silently.  He may say in his heart following each petition, ‘Yes, Lord, that is my prayer as well,’ or add his own brief petitions which are suggested by the petitions being offered.  And at the conclusion of the prayer he should join audibly in saying the ‘Amen’ as has been the practice of God’s people in both the Old Covenant and the New (Neh. 9:6; 1 Cor. 14:16).  Jerome said that the ‘Amen’ following the prayers of the fourth century church was like a clap of thunder!  This practice is much to be preferred over the common custom of interrupting or punctuating the prayers by audible ‘Amens’ (or grunts or groans or other such expressions such as, ‘Yes, Lord,’ or ‘Thank you, Jesus!’).  Better to nod the head in silent agreement than to distract other worshippers or the one praying or to subject yourself to the temptation of attempting to appear more spiritual than others on the basis of the number or loudness of the audible responses.

 

 

 

 

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel for ever and ever. And all the people said, Amen, and praised the Lord.”

1 Chron. 16:36

“And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.  And the four beasts said, Amen.”

Rev. 5:13-14

“For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.”

2 Cor. 1:20

 

 

 

Related Pages

Worship

The Regulative Principle of Worship

Responsive Readings